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Verdun Review

Verdun on PC

One of the toughest challenges that I face when it comes to reviews is that sometimes I’m put outside my comfort zone. So it is with Verdun, an online first-person shooter from indie developer Blackmill Games. Bringing players together for World War I era trench warfare, Verdun does a solid job of building a fundamentally-sound title with squad-based combat, a career/level system, and plenty of unique features that keep things interesting.

Verdun Rifle View

The graphics, while not on par with current AAA standards, are definitely good-looking

As I mentioned, Verdun throws players into the first World War, a setting I haven’t seen in multiplayer FPS previously. Along the trenches and open battlefield, barbed wire, mustard gas, and other hazards present unique challenges for players to overcome. I’ve often wondered why this setting hasn’t been used more often, and I think Verdun does a solid job at representing the perilous and deadly atmosphere of the Great War. While the weaponry at players’ disposal may be more cumbersome than more recent offerings, most of the game’s weapons are potently lethal, with most rifles, for example, stopping an opponent dead in their tracks with a single shot.


Verdun Rifle Scope

Earning career points allows players to purchase upgrades for their loadouts, including scopes, bayonets, and grenades.

The core of Verdun‘s gameplay is its Frontline mode, a squad-based battle between the Entente and Central Powers. Each player is assigned a role within their squad which determines the weapons available to them, and the goal will shift between offense and defense as the battle plays out. One moment, you may be making a desperate push to gain a foothold into enemy territory, and the next may find you falling back as the enemy launches a counterattack. While the ebb and flow of battle can take some getting used to, I found that it was a really interesting and innovative mechanic, especially since each swing in the battle relies not on random events, but on the performance of the opposing forces, down to each squad and soldier in the fight. The game also offers a free-for-all Rifle Deathmatch mode if you’re the type that doesn’t play well with others.

Verdun Machine Gun

While they lack the one-shot punch of rifles, early machine guns can wreak havoc on enemy forces.

While the foundation of Verdun is solid, it’s not without some issues that can make it difficult for new players. Sorting friend from foe, for instance, is a tricky task that relies on your own eyes and ability to differentiate, as the game offers no assistance in the task. While I can’t really fault Blackmill’s attempts at realism, this makes the early going extremely difficult. The shift between attack and defense can create some problems, as well, as being out of position leads to instant execution for deserting your post, though prompts will at least tell you that you’re facing a quick and sudden demise. Throwing in a lack of hands-on tutorial and the occasional bout of lag, there’s a definite and difficult learning curve that, quite frankly, I didn’t necessarily overcome in the few hours I spent playing.

Verdun Crowd Fight

Most of the time, picking friend from foe is a matter of quickly assessing uniform color, but even this isn’t always easy unless you’re nice and close.

Altogether, Verdun presents a fantastically-created setting with some serious dedication to realism and historical accuracy, which goes a long way in creating an immersive and unique experience. While it’s not a perfect creation, and the gameplay may be a few years behind the efforts of larger studios, I was certainly impressed with not only the gameplay itself, but with the pretty constant availability of players online. Not once did I struggle to find a match to join, and the squad setup means you’ve always got a role to play, whether as a slow-firing but deadly rifleman or as a squad leader with tactical assets to bring to bear. With a price of $22.99 on Steam, Verdun places itself at a reasonable point between the higher-priced AAA titles and the less-functional of its indie brethren. If you’ve ever wondered, like I have, what a game dedicated to this era of warfare would be like — and you enjoy multiplayer FPS action — you owe it to yourself to at least take a look. For those who aren’t fans of the genre or the historical setting, it’s likely best to sit this one out.

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